Well, here we are again. Oklahoma in the championship series against an SEC opponent. Only this time it's Tennessee instead of Alabama. Just like the Sooners, Tennessee comes into Monday's Game One with an unblemished record in Oklahoma City. The Volunteers went through Florida, Washington, and then Texas to find their way to the final.
As a team, Tennessee is not all that different than Oklahoma. While no one can truly compare from a talent/depth standpoint, the Volunteers really that far behind. They have two co-aces they can go to in the circle in sisters Ivy and Ellen Renfroe. And they have a potent top half of their lineup with multiple threats in National Player of the Year finalist Raven Chavanne, the team's primary power source Lauren Gibson, Kat Doston and Madison Shipman.
The primary factor, of factors as it were, that makes them such a threat to the national championship Oklahoma has been on a mission to claim all year long is the Renfroes. So many teams in the sport of softball rely on one ace to carry them that when/if you are able to chase them from a game, the drop off to a team's second pitcher can be significant. However, these two sisters are pretty much interchangeable for the most part so even if Oklahoma can get it going offensively early it's not as if Tennessee will have no one to call on in relief.
The difference in this best of three series could come down to Oklahoma's 7-8-9 hitters who have terrorized opposing pitchers all season. Destinee Martinez, Callie Parsons, and Brianna Turang have either been (1) a catalyst for the ridiculously loaded top half of OU's batting order or (2) simply generated their own offense by getting on base and driving each other in. These three Sooners are what separates Oklahoma from being another good team to arguably one of the greatest teams of all time.
But if you want to be included in that discussion, you're going to have to bring home the ultimate prize. And now there is only one team standing in the way of this Oklahoma team accomplishing that goal.
An Oklahoma team who left Oklahoma City this same time last year disappointed for failing to claim a title they believe they should have won. An Oklahoma team that has spent virtually this entire season punishing their opponents as a result of said disappointment from last year.
For everything this Oklahoma team has accomplished so far this year, and that list is long and still growing, you better believe Tennessee feels just as deserving to be playing for a national title. Nothing is going to be given to this OU squad, so they are going to have to take it.
Can this Oklahoma team, who many have described as possibly one of the best teams of all time, finally claim that elusive national title? Or will an SEC opponent dash their hopes for a second consecutive year?
We'll find out at least a partial answer to those questions Monday night with first pitch of Game One scheduled for shortly after 7:00 p.m. (CST) on ESPN2.